On Immigration and Refugees:
Books for Kids and Teens
In the wake of the new president's unethical halt on immigration from select Muslim-majority countries, I am compiling some beautiful and inspiring books that focus, first, on exactly those populations -- Muslim people and/or refugees from the Middle East. They are joined by other books that focus on immigration and different cultures. This is not at all a comprehensive list; at the end, I'm including links to other, similar lists, and some further resources for understanding the issues.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammad; illustrated by Doug Chayka (2007)
Two kids meet in a refugee camp in Pakistan, each having acquired one of the same pair of shoes. Story of sharing and friendship.
The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle; illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix (2009)
Detailed and gorgeously illustrated account, based on scant available research, of the ways the Muslim community of Paris were able to smuggle Jewish refugees out of the city during the Holocaust.
Coming to America: A Muslim Family's Story by Bernard Wolf (2003)
Photo-essay about an immigrant family living in New York. Tells the story of their emigration from Egypt while focusing on a year in their life in the U.S.
Migrant by José Manuel Mateo; illustrated by Javier Martínez Pedro (2014)
This detailed fanfold book follows the journey of a kid and his family from Mexico to the United States, through both text in English and Spanish and a single connected narrative illustration.
Sitti's Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye (1994)
A Palestinian-American child goes to meet her sitti, or grandmother, who lives halfway around the world.
Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells (2012)
With only Japanese picture books at home, Yoko worries that she won't be able to learn to read English as soon as her classmates.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (2001)
Worried about not being accepted at her new school, Unhei announces she will choose a new name. A story of self-acceptance.
My Dadima Wears a Sari by Kashmira Sheth (2007)
Rupa's grandmother tells wonderful stories about what a sari can do, and shows her the sari she wore to travel to America.
We Came to America by Faith Ringgold (2016)
Vivid illustration of the diversity of peoples that make up this country. (Including those who were already here.)
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey (In English and Arabic) by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr, translated by Falah Raheem (2016)
A beautiful collaboration between a Syrian artist who makes breathtakingly emotive pictures using beach pebbles and a children's book writer who discovered his work online. Tells a story in verse of a family's experience fleeing war in their own country and finding refuge in a new land.
Chapter / Middle Grade Books
The Storyteller's Beads by Jane Kurtz (1998)
Two children, one Christian, one Jewish (and blind), learn to trust each other while fleeing the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2007)
A wordless, detailed, and surreal graphic novel of migration to a partly real, partly fantastical new world.
The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow (2016)
A story of four kids from different social circles who together develop strange and awkward powers, including a kid who's been ostracized due to made-up fears about his Iranian parentage. Sequel coming in October 2017!
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1989)
A Christian girl helps her Jewish friend's family to escape Denmark during the Holocaust. Based on true history: the Danish resistance managed to rescue nearly all of the Danish Jews.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (2011)
A verse novel based on the author's experiences as a refugee in Alabama after fleeing the Fall of Saigon: at first speaking no English, and then struggling to find happiness in a new world.
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon (2016)
Two teens, one a child of Korean immigrants and one trying to halt her whole family's imminent deportation to Jamaica, meet and fall for each other.
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (2015)
Set in the 1930s in both the US and Ethiopia, a story of two kids of different races, raised as siblings after one of their mothers dies, learning to navigate both air flight in peacetime and wartime, and issues of race, gender, and parentage.
This Land Is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barret Osborne (2016)
A nicely accessible history of immigration from the 1500s to almost-present, not shying away from the contradictions and cognitive dissonance that have followed that history over the centuries. Illustrated with photos and historical documents.
Books to Help Kids Understand What It’s Like to Be a Refugee by author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Young Adult and Middle Grade Reads from & about Countries from Trump’s Travel Banby Kelly Jensen at Book Riot (2017)
I'm Your Neighbor Books, a searchable database of books portraying the contemporary immigrant and refugee experience.
Ten Middle Grade Books that Reflect the US Immigration Experience by librarian Natalie Dias Lorenzi (2012)
Children's Books about the Refugee/Immigrant Experience from Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS)
Contemporary Immigrant Experiences in Children’s Books from the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT) of the American Library Association (2006)
Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff from Teaching Tolerance
Fact Sheet for Refugee Week 2016 from the British Red Cross
8 educational resources to better understand the refugee crisis from Amnesty